Paul Cox admitted he couldn’t have asked for anything more from his Kettering Town players after they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at Brackley Town in their first outing of 2021.
The Poppies produced an impressive display at St James Park as they halted Brackley’s four-game winning streak in the Vanarama National League North.
Kettering took the lead in the second half when in-form Callum Powell converted from the penalty spot after he had been brought down by Ethan Coleman.
It looked like Cox’s team would hold out but, with two minutes to go, Matt Lowe’s cross struck the arm of Connor Johnson in the area and Brackley were awarded a spot-kick of their own.
Shane Byrne held his nerve to beat Adam Collin and it meant the Poppies were held to a third successive draw in the league.
But Cox struggled to find any major flaws in his team’s display.
“I thought we looked comfortable, the shape looked comfortable, the players were comfortable in possession and I thought we played some good stuff,” the Kettering boss said.
“When we scored the penalty I didn’t really see Brackley breaking us down. I don’t recall many efforts on goal that they had and that’s good to come to a place like this with the resources they have against a team going for promotion.
“I was really pleased with the performance, I can’t ask for anymore from the boys and I just thought we were a bit unlucky at the end because I don’t think our player has raised his arm to block the ball, I thought the ball hit his arm.
“I can’t blame the referees for this. The FA need to leave the referees alone and stop bringing in so many rules that confuse people.
“For me, it’s handball if the lad has gone out to block it but I didn’t see anything like that to warrant a penalty.
“We worked hard and we have gone toe-to-toe with a good team at this level.
“I thought we played the game really well and I personally thought we deserved the three points.
“It’s one defeat in 10 games in all competitions and the confidence is building and we will have to take that into Tuesday, which is another tough one when we will try to find a way to impose ourselves on a good Boston United side.”
Cox, meanwhile, was impressed with the performance of defender Johnson who came into the side with Jevan Anderson missing out due to a hamstring injury.
“I thought Connor was excellent,” the Poppies manager added.
“He’s played at a good level but this level is a bit different and we have talked about adding some basics to his game to help him adjust.
“He reads the game well, he’s technically excellent and I thought he was brilliant. The back three were very controlled.”